how like astronauts they look

these men and women

who stitch bedrock to the sky


carpenters, ironworkers,

jumpered against the cold, bound in slow-motion

over torn, heaved landscape


excavators, shovels, and backhoes

minuet with dump trucks and dynamite

to crush rock and rearrange the earth


architects and foremen gesture over tables,

chew cigars, eat sandwiches from bags,

their breaths hang in the air

as they interpret writ holy as old scrolls


a cloud of limestone dust sifts down

over operators, hod carriers, common laborers–

ancient sediments and fossils

transformed into the raw material

of hopes, dreams, and just plain work

Four days out of the oven

This was her pie—a peck of apples

some walnuts, a pear,

done up with butter-flake dough,

sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.


Juice-smeared blade

set on fresh laundered towel;

bowls, pans, measuring cups

flour coated, the tin slick with butter.


Grooves in the lattice—

second thoughts, realignments,

thoughts vanished with the thinker.


When she died, the recipe died with her,

her last pie, retrieved from the deep freeze

where she stored garden beans,

bunches of kale, this year’s asparagus,

and meats she bought on sale.


A pie for us

to celebrate her life by.


Around the room, I watch mourners’ forks

crush notches where her thumb

pushed the dough between two fingers,

held slightly apart.


that night we walked along dry creeks

and into the desert outside of Chinle


cottonwoods rattled in hazy, hot wind

the sound floated over locusts,

and hung in corners of hogans


we struck match to sagebrush

told stories of Kit Carson’s soldiers

burning houses, fields, killing ponies


wind rocketed down the canyon

and into the night, and we dreamed

that the Indians won that war


in pink, desert dawn,

ravens squawked and strutted

around our camp


ready to pluck out our eyes

when we weren’t looking

highway beautification

highway prettification’s been a problem

since appius claudius cæcus

decided to move his legions

faster, farther, and more efficiently


in all these years—

nay, millennia—

of highway engineering,

only romans invented

a decent landscaping program


romans planted romans

along the shoulder of the appian way

in single-eyebrowed mausoleums,

sprawling columbaria that the slaves kept garden fresh


i imagine gravestones, urns, mausoleums

decorated with crosses, stars of david,

vases, crescent moons, bronze baby booties

for a hundred thousand miles of drab,

debris-beleaguered blight


i see death behind guardrails,

along shoulders of interstate,

four- and two-lane urban and rural highway


no more need to plant or mow,

to send people in orange vests

to pluck plastic shopping bags,

sun-faded wreaths, and litter

from no-man’s land


The woman at the counter attracts me. She is tall, bulky without being heavy or overweight. I don’t love her and never will. I love her desperately.

Like many other men, I want to sleep with her  but don’t. I want her to walk away from her work to the back shelves of this bookstore and reveal herself to me. My wife is a beautiful woman who would never harm me. I will never sleep with this stranger at this bookstore because I will not hurt my wife. I want to sleep with the bookstore woman all the same. I want to take a journey into the far corners of desire, not because it would feel good to me but because it would feel awful.

I am middle-age and overweight. The notion that I have not accomplished what I should overwhelms me. Copulating—the impersonal clinical action that would happen in the stacks—with the bookstore woman would stir an adventurer in “me” who goes to unknown places and returns with a different vision of the world. I know this adventurer well. He is the roller-coaster rider, the man who climbs up on things because they frighten him.

I also know the man who won’t undertake this bookstore adventure. The moral core is too solid, too immutable. It will not let me walk with this woman, even if she was willing, into the back of the empty bookstore and sate physical desire that I don’t and have never understood or come to terms with.

I talk of me and him. I am me and I am the characters I create and recreate. I understand myself as characters as well as me’s. I look back on myself and construct myself us as people I think I am and once was. I sleep with her. I don’t sleep with her. Two different characters. Two different me’s.


i don’t care much

whether humans have souls

or if death transforms us


heaven, hell,

and the in between

don’t concern me


i must atone for my original sin

and this sinner pays penance

doubt and self-recrimination


i seek the solace of breezy days

in early spring when the crocus

pushes through fallen leaves

and reaches for the sun


so i toil purgatory days

struggle for the light


i’m redeemed when

i find myself free

of me


who could know

where the feelings came from


compulsion, broken heart,

a fractured life


without reason

a kiss on a friend’s mouth

a hand on pudenda


desires unknown

until that moment

at the bar


when no one was looking

when lilacs bloom

we lost hope

winter seemed forever

spring so far away


we cowered inside

our faces turned from windows

and hidden in blankets


while we looked away,

frightened beyond reason

that cold would surely end us


lilacs bloomed like surprises

whipped out of gardens

on winds through front doors


then we knew again

lilacs smell better after winter

on days sodden with rain and lightning flashes


lilacs aromas conjure horizons

where green wheat meets stormy skies

thunder shakes creation


tempests rip flowers

into still-cold spring

but gales can’t harm them


they’ve reminded us

how far we have come

into the light

typographical errors

i noticed flies’ absence the most

between sunset and dark


it was as if gods watched

over me as i read beyond seeing

into squinting, nodding, and the cacophony

on slumber’s doorstep


i hooked my dreams to shooting stars

and understood by saturn’s rings

that flies have tastier victims

than drowsy readers


a man dreaming

at the tails of meteors

really can’t say much about

flies, books, stars, or sunsets


but he knows the relevance of flight

in endless spaces between words on a page